Monday, January 2, 2012

Caramel Corn with Smoked Almonds & Fleur de Sel

Happy 2012, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Mine busy, but filled with lots of friends, family, and of course, delicious food, so I can't complain. I have quite a few posts coming that I'm really excited about. Some may be completely new to D*lish (hint, hint: crafts) and some will most likely be out of order, so bear with me. Anyway, on to the recipe at hand, caramel corn!

I'm not usually a huge fan of popcorn and all it's variations, but when I saw this recipe for caramel corn as part of Graham Elliot's tree-trimming menu for Epicurious, I knew I had to give it a try. I think Graham Elliot is a genius (if you're out there, I love you!) and upon dining at his restaurant several months ago, I was a popcorn convert. Instead of bread and butter, Elliot serves dangerously addictive truffle popcorn with Parmesan and chives. I was stuffed before the 10-course meal even began!

My friend, Emily, hosted a New Year's Eve party at her apartment this past weekend and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out this gourmet take on a carnival classic. Let me say, it did not disappoint. It was whimsical and delicious with a lovely crunch. After the first bite, I was hooked.

The preparation is fairly simple, although a couple of the ingredients can be a bit tricky to find, notably the Marcona almonds and fleur de sel. Marcona almonds hail from Spain and are slightly sweet and delicate in texture. I found mine at Whole Foods, but I've also seen them at Trader Joe's. I'm not sure if they would have them at grocery stores such as Jewel, Dominicks, Kroger or Publix. If you can't find them, you can obviously use regular smoked almonds, but I would really make an effort to track some down, I thought they definitely gave the popcorn something special.

Salty sweet crunchy munchies (I'm quite the poet)

Fleur de sel is a hand-harvested French sea salt. It is a relatively moist salt, which means it doesn't dissolve easily when sprinkled on food. It gives the popcorn a slight crunch and a nice shimmer; however, it can be very tricky to find, so if you can't find it, don't fret, just substitute a high quality coarse sea salt.

Two more tips: first, be generous when oiling the bowl, baking sheet and spatula for your popcorn, the caramel will stick and make clean up a huge hassle. And second, get your arm ready to mix the caramel and nuts evenly into the popcorn, the caramel hardens quickly and stirring the mixture to incorporate requires a little muscle. Put your back into it!

I highly recommend this recipe. It makes for a really fun item to bring along to a party or potluck and it could be great as a snack to put out if you're hosting a cocktail or dinner party.

Bon appetit!

Caramel Corn with Smoked Almonds & Fleur de Sel
Serves 8-10 
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup popcorn kernels
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups (about 8 oz.) smoked or regular Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fleur de sel (or coarse sea salt, if you can't find it)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease generously with nonstick vegetable-oil spray. Generously spray a large bowl and all but the handle part of a large spoon or rubber spatula. 

In a large deep pot with a lid, combine the popcorn kernels, oil, and salt and stir to coat the kernels in oil. Place the pot over moderately high heat, cover with a lid, and cook, shaking the pot frequently to redistribute the kernels, until all the kernels have popped, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn to the large prepared bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels.

In a large deep pot over moderately high heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and 1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Cook, undisturbed, until the mixture develops a light amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add the baking soda and butter, and stir continuously to melt the butter and combine the ingredients, about 20 seconds. (The mixture will be very hot and will foam up at this point—continuous stirring will help the foaming subside.)

The finished caramel product. Note the amber hue.

Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn and add the almonds, then use the prepared spoon or rubber spatula to stir everything together, trying to evenly coat the popcorn and nuts in caramel. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spreading out the caramel corn as much as possible. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and let cool and harden for about 20 minutes. Break the caramel corn into smaller, bite-size pieces and serve. Can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container

Source: Graham Elliot, via Epicurious

1 comment:

  1. That caramel popcorn looks like it could make me full by eating one big bowl. It's looks scrumptious and it would make anyone salivate just by looking at it.

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